Can summer camp be more than just fun? Can it be meaningful, and even serve as a spiritual turning point in a young person’s life?
Leaders with Xenos Student Ministries say YES, and encourage you to consider sending your child to one of the summer camps Xenos will be offering this summer.
Student Ministries Director Joe Botti says getting kids away from distractions helps them turn their focus more completely on God and consider His role in their life. As kids hear challenging Bible teachings, there’s time for them to think and respond, and they’re given the chance to trust their lives to God.
Joe says the camps also become a great opportunity to build healthy relationships with their peers. Because they spend a lot of time together, new friendships have a chance to start and existing friendships have a chance to deepen. Sometimes the time together creates conflicts, and kids learn to work these conflicts out.
For young children—preschool through 3rd grade—Xenos offers Vacation Bible School (VBS). Unlike the other Xenos camps, it is not an overnight camp but is a week-long half-day program. For older elementary students, there’s TNT camp, which is a full-day program, including one optional overnight.
TNT Camp, for 4th and 5th graders, is built around discovering what God is doing around the world. Camp Director Caitlin Kleinpaste says each year they pick a region—this year Southeast Asia—and explore what life is like there and how God is working to reach people there. Caitlin says, “We designed camp this way for many reasons, including the importance of kids understanding God's love for the nations, how to interact with people who are different, the chance to experience another culture, and that God works in amazing ways around the world and in Columbus to communicate who He is to people. The students leave camp excited to get to know God better and to share about who He is with people in their lives.”
As with other camps, Caitlin says having kids thinking about God every day for a week, rather than the usual once a week, brings them to new understandings about God. She says when asked what steps of faith God is calling them to the responses are profound. “Some of last year's include forgiving siblings, obeying parents, talking to certain friends about God, befriending an outcast on a soccer team, and getting to know God better by reading what He says in the Bible or by talking to Him. It's always amazing to hear what God shows each child, and it is always deeply personal to that child's situation.”
Blowout Camp is for middle-schoolers and runs several days at Camp Chautauqua. Junior High Assistant Director Brad Dufault says students often have the highest quality and quantity of Christian fellowship while at camp. “Many students who are familiar with the ideas of building spiritual friendships, spending time with God, and serving in the church actually experience those things in a new way at camp.”
Brad tells the story of a shy boy who had trouble initiating with others. “Last year at camp he asked a newer student about what he believed, and ended up explaining the gospel to him. It was instrumental in the new boy later receiving Christ! I'm not sure if this once-timid student would have found the courage to take such a big step if he wasn't in such an encouraging environment as Blowout Camp.”
One of the most significant aspects of Blowout Camp is that it’s so much fun. Brad says, “It banishes the idea that God is lame, which is the number one misconception junior high kids face.”
Hundreds of high schoolers take part in Epic at Spring Hill Camp in Indiana. Because they are older their time is much less structured. They can enjoy a variety of camp activities like swimming, canoeing, and zip-lining. They stay in cabins with other people from their home church, offering them great time to build their friendships and enjoy time discussing the things they’re learning in evening teachings and personal time in the Bible.
High School CT teacher Josh Benadum says, for many students at Epic, it's a turning point in their spiritual lives. "There is no age at which there is more cultural pressure on students to dump God and go for the things of the world. The high school age is so key. Epic summer camp stands as a yearly oasis, where high school students step out of their context and spend an entire week immersed in fellowship, the Word, and God's creation. Every year at camp, many begin relationships with God, and a significant portion of them form the intention to follow him for the rest of their lives."
While each of these camps is tailored to the ages they serve, there is an overarching goal to offer a spiritually refreshing and challenging time, helping both younger and older students begin a relationship with God and entrust their life to Him.
Joe Botti says these camps are not only for kids who are Christians. He says the teachings are purposefully relevant for all students. “Many non-Christian kids attend and many put their faith in Christ at these camps—literally dozens each year.”
Here are the dates for each camp, along with links to learn more and to register your son or daughter:
- Pre-K through 3rd grade: June 18-22 Vacation Bible School (VBS)
- 4th and 5th grade: June 18-22 TNT Camp
- Middle School: June 2-7 Blowout Camp
- High School: July 1-7 Epic
For families who cannot afford the cost, there are scholarships available. All students receiving aid are required to participate in fund-raisers and community service projects, which ensures they are earning the help they're receiving.